So I heard a panel commenting on creationism in the UK on Radio 4 this morning. As you’d expect from Auntie these days, creationism was being denounced as a conspiracy of ignorance against the overwhelming evidence for evolutionary intelligence. It’s the third time in as many weeks that the creation vs evolution debate has passed through my headspace.
I have undergraduate degrees in theology and geology and THIS MEANS THAT I KNOW ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT I AM NOT AN EXPERT on science and/or faith. I’ve been around this debate for around 25 years however, and would like to use the space afforded by my blog to offer a few thoughts:
Creationists are not idiots.
Some of them are my friends. Many of them hold down responsible professional jobs (holding the relevant higher education qualifications) with they do with excellence for the benefit of society. They are mostly Christians who believe (as do I) in the reality of God as creator and that the bible has authority and should be taken seriously. They recognise that evolution is often provided as evidence against God and as justification for the kind of behaviours the bible prohibits. So they don’t like the theory of evolution. Modern creationism originated in the US in the 1920s as a reaction to the lines which were being drawn between the ‘survival of the fittest’ in Darwinian theory and the rise of ‘might Is right’ nationalism in Germany. I don’t like Naziism, creationists don’t like Naziism and I hope you don’t like Naziism.
Mainstream Science is not a Godless conspiracy theory
Whist there are emerging pockets of alt-liberal bigotry in the scientific community, my observation is that mainstream science is dedicated to a wholesome pursuit of peer-reviewed truth-seeking. The reason creation science often does not get a hearing is that it is often popularist and widely published before rigorous peer review. Evolutionary theory has held sway as the mainstream of Biological & Palaeontoligcal sciences for the last 150ish years because it is the most compelling theory with the most evidence in its favour.
It’s possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution
The 19th century church in the UK did not protest widely regards the idea of evolution. Simon Conway Morris, one of the most senior Palaeobiologists in the UK is a Christian. Billy Graham believed in evolution. So it seems that it is possible to believe in God, follow Jesus, hold the bible in highest regard AND think evolution is plausible or likely.
Evolution cannot be a governing philosophy for life
If you are just evolutionary flotsam and jetsam, then the atoms in your body have no more intrinsic value than the atoms in the screen you’re reading from. If evolution is all there is as a guiding principle then you exist to pass on your genes and prevent competitors from passing theirs on… If this is alarming to you, it is because you have adopted a philosophy of life which was either revealed to you or you made up and cannot be a consequence of evolution and I am very glad about that. I think the worldview which stems from the life, death, resurrection and Spirit of Jesus is the one that makes the most sense, but I’m happy to hear about yours.
I rarely bother to join this discussion as it produces a great deal of relational heat and not much ethical or spiritual light. The shouty shouting of extrapolating evolutionists and young earth creationists tends to drown out the voices in the middle ground. I think the Genesis creation stories can legitimately bear a range of modern ‘how it happened’ interpretations whist still asserting with clarity that there’s only one God who made everything out of nothing and made people in his image. Consequently I believe that people are not just animals and the atoms in my body are worth more to God than those in my keyboard or in the sparrows in our garden (as are the atoms making up your body). These truths were taught by Jesus and I believe they matter. I don’t think this debate does.